Christine Watkins, 87, shares the story of her time as a warden at Brunelcare, and what later life is like living at Colliers Gardens.
“My name is Christine Rose Watkins. Roses were my mum’s favourite flower, that’s why I was called Rose.
I was born in Islington in 1932. We were bombed there when I was 9-years-old, and my dad worked for a cigarette company that moved us to Brislington, so we came here in the 1940s. I would never live in London again now, not for anything. Bristol, to me, is the most beautiful city.
When I left school at 14, I worked in the Co-op tailoring factory in Brislington at £1.05 a week. I had to give my mum or dad £1 a week, but you could go to the pictures for a shilling back then, it was a long time ago. When me and my husband bought our first house we paid £1000 for it - our mortgage was £8 a month! My son took me there recently and it’s fetching £500,000 now. I don’t envy the kids these days.
I was 17 when my husband and I met, and we married four years later in 1953. April 3rd, it was. We had a lovely little wedding in Christ Church in Hengrove, and it wasn’t long before we had our own family. We had two boys and two girls, and I have three grandchildren now, too: two boys and a girl. They really are lovely. I’m very lucky and I love them dearly.
I’ve had a number of jobs throughout my life, but in 1985 I became a warden at Brunelcare. Of course, it wasn’t called Brunelcare back then, it was called ‘Bristol Old People’s Welfare’. I applied for a job at Beechcroft - which is now known as the ABC Centre. They interviewed both me and my husband when I went for the role. They wanted to know that he would support me, which he did, and I got the job in June. I was looking through my briefcase a few weeks ago and I found my original offer letters from 1985!
I started that year, and I was over the moon. It was the perfect job for me. I’d check on everyone each day to see if they needed help in any way, which I loved because I love people. I used to take some of the ladies out on a nice walk, and if they hadn’t eaten anything I’d give them a meal. I enjoyed all of it, it was a lovely job. I learned a lot about Bristol when I worked there too; I didn’t know Bristol well, but they talked to me about where they’d worked and what they did, and I got to know the people and their history. I really loved it.
I worked here for nine years before I had to leave after an accident with my leg, and I ended up moving to Yorkshire. My husband sadly passed away and my daughter had a new job up there, so I went for a couple of years, but I missed my children too much, so it didn’t take me long to come back. That was when I started to live on my own.
I came to Brunelcare’s Colliers Gardens after living in a flat in Bedminster for 10 years, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. It is wonderful. My children never stopped congratulating me: “Mum, you’re so lucky”, they’d say. “You feel at ease here, it’s brilliant.” I’ve lived here for almost two years now and the care is wonderful, it really is. I have so much freedom. I love going out with my daughter and her husband every Saturday, we go shopping and have a bit of lunch. And my children visit me all the time. My son comes round with his dog and cooks lunch for me. I’m so happy.
I’m getting older now and I love spending my later life here, it really is the best thing I’ve ever done. And the care is wonderful, it really is. If I had one million pounds I would give it to Brunelcare.”
(this interview was conducted prior to COVID-19).
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